What Is a Smart TV and Why Do I Need One?

Updated: Apr. 10, 2024

If you don't quite understand all the buzz about smart TVs, here's what you need to know about these televisions and how they work.

You’ve probably heard about smart TVs, since they’re advertised heavily and sold in stores everywhere. But what is a smart TV, exactly? Here’s what you need to know about this new generations of televisions and how they work.

What Is a Smart TV?

Smart TVs, sometimes called connected TVs, connect to your home’s internet network. That allows you to stream online videos and movies, browse the internet, and do other activities that were once restricted to computers or smartphones.

How do smart TVs harness the internet? The same way your phone or computer does! These TVs can be hooked up to your broadband router via Ethernet cable or WiFi. Connecting them to your network is usually as simple as entering the network name and password.

Once your smart TV is connected to the internet, you can access an integrated platform (basically a special menu of apps that pops up when you turn it on) that showcase the TV’s features. The platform will vary depending on the device’s manufacturer. TCL smart TVs typically use the Roku platform, while a Vizio smart TV will have SmartCast. These platforms are similar, allowing you to download apps the same way you would on your phone. Some popular smart TV apps include Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and Spotify, but there can be hundreds to choose from.

How Much Do Smart TVs Cost?

As you might expect, smart TVs typically cost more than their “dumb” counterparts. But they’re still quite affordable, with small-screens models such as this 32-inch Hisense TV, starting as low as $115. On the high end, a 70-inch OLED smart TV can easily cost several thousand dollars.

Do You Need a Smart TV?

You don’t necessarily need a smart TV to stream online content or access other apps through your television. Instead you can use a streaming device such as the Amazon Fire TV Stick or Roku Streaming Stick to equip a regular TV with smart capabilities.

However, if you’re in the market for a new TV, you’ll find that many products available today are, in fact, smart. So even if you’re not necessarily shopping for this feature, it may be included on the TV you select. If this is the case, you’ll find that smart features open up new possibilities for how you watch TV, movies and other content.